The death of a motorcyclist in Townsville has prompted police warnings about the dangers of continued vigilante action in the city.
Police said a grey Holden Statesman was “aggressively” following a stolen silver Hyundai i35 at speed late on Friday night in Thuringowa Central, in the city’s south-west.
The Holden allegedly rammed the back of the Hyundai and lost control in the process.
The Holden crossed the centre median strip and hit head-on a motorcycle coming the other way. The 22-year-old woman riding the bike died at the scene.
Police were still searching for the driver of the stolen car. They found the vehicle about an hour later in Garbutt, in Townsville’s north.
Two men, aged 25 and 41, and a woman, 22, were in the Holden and were taken to hospital with minor injuries.
“Our sympathies lie with the family of the deceased victim, it’s a tragic incident that no family should have to experience,” Superintendent Glen Pointing told local media.
Pointing was not prepared to label the pursuers as vigilantes on Saturday, saying investigations were continuing.
He said he “could not explain why they were following that car”.
Pointing did offer a more general condemnation of vigilante justice in the city.
“I’d very strongly caution against any form of vigilante action. Oftentimes whilst people may have good intentions, it results in unintended consequences. It’s dangerous. And you leave yourself exposed to action yourself. So in very strong terms I advise people not to take the law into their own hands.”
No arrests had been made but the occupants of the Holden were assisting police with their investigation, police said.
The actions of vigilantes in Townsville have prompted repeated warnings from police.
The rate of criminal offending in Townsville is only marginally higher than other regional Queensland areas.
But academics, justice activists and local Indigenous community leaders say a level of hysteria has driven local and political debate about crime in the city.
Some experts warned that local vigilantism was “out of control” in Townsville.
“The vigilantism is out of control and the media lays right over the top of that and drives a fundamentally racist agenda,” Debbie Kilroy, the chief executive of the prisoner advocacy service Sisters Inside, said in September.
In November, police alleged that a man armed with a tyre iron pursued a stolen car driven by young teenagers until they crashed into a power pole in Townsville.
Police said that chase could have “easily ended in tragedy”.
“The actions of vigilantes not only put their own lives potentially at risk, but those of innocent members of the community,” the acting district superintendent Sean Dugger said at the time.
“We understand there can be public frustration with ongoing criminal activity, but taking matters into your own hands will not be tolerated by police.”